Supercar of the Year: The Contenders | Car of the Year 2016

Porsche 911 R

What will be our Supercar of the Year 2016?

Perhaps the most important accolade in the car of the year lineup, we’ve 5 stupendous supercars battling for the top award. Each are supreme in their own right, which made choosing a winner incredibly difficult. We hope you’ll agree with our choice. It took a lot of deliberation to get here and we’ll happily argue on and on in the comments til next year’s supercar of the year comes round…

The Contenders

Audi R8 V10 Plus

2015 Audi R8 V10 plus

The original R8 surprised the world when it came out, providing genuine 911-baiting performance with a dash of Quattro sensibility giving a bit more security at the limit. When Audi removed the original 4.2 V8 and replaced it with the 5.2 V10 from the Gallardo, bringing power up from 420bhp to 525bhp things got even better.

This 2nd generation R8 is only available with a high-revving V10 engine, and if you opt for the lurid blood-orange “Plus”, power is up to 602bhp, with Audi shrugging off the trend for turbocharging in favour of its own FSI technology. Combine this with the Quattro four-wheel-drive and innovative part-carbon-fibre-part aluminium construction, and the V10 Plus will catapult you from 0-60mph in just 3.2 seconds and on to a top speed just north of 200mph.

Styling is a tad on the conservative side, and although those trademark R8 “sideburns” remain they have been somewhat toned down, no longer dominating the car’s styling as they used to. All in all, the R8 V10 Plus is a phenomenal car to own and live with, but will it seem a tad on the safe side in this lineup?

McLaren 675LT Spider

McLaren 675 LT Spider

Undoubtedly the apple of many petrolheads’ eyes this year – it’s adorned the pages of the supercar mags and carspotters’ camera phones alike – the 675LT was born out of McLaren’s obsession with making every little detail just a teeny bit better. Starting with a 650S, McLaren’s engineers put what is already a staggeringly good supercar through the ringer, with the 675LT the result of their efforts.

Building on the successes of the former car, the 675LT features the same 3.8-litre turbocharged V8 but with many parts swapped out for bits and pieces from the P1, bridging the gap between super- and hypercar. Dry weight is down a full 100kg on the 650 S, while power is up to an ominous 666bhp and 516lb ft of torque. 0-60mph is dealt with in just 2.9 seconds, 124mph is reached in a frankly astonishing 7.8 seconds, before the coupe tops out at 205mph.

While McLaren’s fettering with the 650S has honed that car’s performance, it’s also blessed the 675LT with a much more involving drive. Where the previous car was cold and geared only towards the technical pursuit of shaving milliseconds off track times, the LT brings the driver back into the process, without affecting the considerable talents of the original.

It’s the Spider that impresses most of all though. Removing the roof from the 675LT may have added 40kg to its kerbweight but performance is near enough identical, while the option of adding miles of sky add to the sensational driving experience is more than enough to convince that the Spider is the one to have.

Honda NSX

Honda NSX 2016 Sports car supercar

Oftentimes the 2nd generation of a supercar comes with big shoes to fill. Rarely is the footwear more capacious than in the case of the Honda NSX, so it’s not surprising that Honda have taken their time with this one. The original car was so competent that it was barely changed for the duration of its 15-year lifespan. This new model has been talked about and teased at motor shows since as early as 2007 – so was 9 years long enough to create a car up to the legacy of the NSX?

Out goes the V-TEC system of the old car, in its place a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 combined with three electric motors to give 573bhp and 476 lb ft of torque. Honda is cagey about exact performance figures, but 0-60 is over with in around the 3-second mark. Regenerative braking also features, and the system is said to give impressive feedback.

Honda has worked hard to make this car feel connected and in some ways it’s worked. The various performance-focused systems – brakes, engine, the four-wheel-drive torque vectoring – come together in a remarkably harmonious way meaning the NSX is exceptionally good at the general business of going very fast indeed.

The looks are sure to divide opinion. The original NSX was a triumph of mid-engined simplicity in its proportions, but this new one feels very fussy. Admittedly, there is a lot going on – particularly around that angular front end – but from certain perspectives there is some purity to be found in the general shape.

Ferrari 488 GTB

Ferrari 488 GTB Sports car supercar

The 488 represents for some a completion of Ferrari’s journey into the downsize-and-turbocharge-it school of engine building. Capacity is down from its predecessor, the 458, from 4.5-litres to 3.9, with a pair of turbos brought in to increase efficiency and power output from the flat-plane-crank V8. Despite the turbocharging, the 661bhp and 560 lb ft of torque are readily available, making the 488 GTB exceptionally responsive.

Mid-engined Ferraris have always had the power to thrill and entertain bystanders, and the 488 is no exception to this. Even at a standstill, the sleek bodywork is as alluring and strongly reminiscent of the LaFerrari flagship. Tech has dribbled down from the million-pound masterpiece at the top of Ferrari’s range, with the 488 receiving updated carbon-ceramic brakes, which need less time to reach optimal temperature.

On the road it’s poised and perfect for charging along just about any type of road – the chassis endows it with sublime handling and body control, creating an experience for the driver that enthralls and involves them in the process.

When the driving’s done and you pull over to a roadside café for a quick espresso, you’d do well to do so in a car with more charisma. Just don’t sit too long, lest the resulting crowd of excited children with equally excited parents in tow hinder your chances of getting away again.

Porsche 911 R

Porsche 911 R

The premise for the 911 R is to celebrate Porsche’s motorsport triumphs of the past, taking elements of the original 1967 car and remixing them in a modern 991. To that end, the outside is plastered with logos running along the doors and stripes running the length of the car, which can be red or green in tribute to the racing livery of the cars of the ‘60s. There’s no wing over the engine compartment, in its place is an air-intake grille adorned with a 911 R badge which is a homage to the original.

This isn’t just a paintjob-and-price-increase tribute edition. The R sits 44mm wider than the Carrera, with bodywork taken from the track-focused GT3. That stylized engine compartment conceals the 4-litre, naturally aspirated six-cylinder lifted directly from the GT3. In the cabin things get better still, as Porsche have gotten rid of the roll cage to save weight and fitted this car with a 6-speed manual gearbox.

All of which comes together to create a fanatically engaging experience for any owner who managed to pick up one of the 991 examples produced. 493bhp, 339 lb ft and a kerb weight of just 1370kg mean that the R has the prowess to match the heritage, and with less sound deadening in the cabin, the 911 R promises smiles-per-miles-per-hour from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and all the way to over 200mph.

And the winner is…

OK, as we said this was not an easy one. The R8 V10 Plus is staggeringly competent, but those looks, while impressive, just fail to inspire or tug at the heartstrings. The NSX, too, is a technical masterpiece but somehow lacking in the childhood-poster, car-of-your-dreams stakes.

And then there were three… The 911 R and the Ferrari both have everything you could ask of a supercar – legendary, jaw-dropping looks, ear-splitting soundtrack and a commitment to joyous driving experience and truly blistering performance in equal measure.

But our winner is the one that gets the adrenaline flowing even when it’s standing still…

McLaren 675LT Spider

McLaren 675LT Spider supercar sports car

The 675LT Spider combines mind-bending performance figures with the sort of show-stopping looks that, despite being shaped by a pursuit of aerodynamics in a wind tunnel, still manage to enthrall and ensnare the senses. It involves the driver and all who gaze upon it, however brief a glimpse they catch, in the experience of the supercar. And it’s the supercar of the year 2016.

Disagree? Let us know what you’d choose in the comments below, or continue the discussion on Twitter.